Partner's penis too large for pleasurable sex?

Dear Alice,

I have encountered a problem I never expected; my boyfriend is quite simply very large. I am unable to perform oral sex except for the first couple of inches due to the girth, and vaginal sex is not totally satisfying for him because he is too long and cannot fully penetrate without causing me significant pain. I've seen my doctor, and am reassured that there is physically nothing wrong with me — no infections or scarring, but am finding it difficult to come up with a solution. Any suggestions?

—Too Shallow?

Dear Too Shallow?,

Contrary to the popular belief that "bigger is better," having oral, anal, or vaginal sex with someone who has a particularly large penis can present challenges. Not everybody’s genitals are immediately compatible when it comes to size and comfort—in fact, some folks are even going as far as getting genital matchmaking surgery, in which partners surgically alter their genitals in order to become the perfect match for each other during sex. But rest assured, you don’t have to go to quite those lengths in order to feel comfortable having sex with your well-endowed partner. The great thing about being intimate with someone else is that there are endless possibilities for getting down and dirty. It may just take some time to communicate with your partner and get creative. Doing so will likely lead you to some mutually satisfying solutions.

One natural way of getting your body ready is to use the body’s sexual arousal response to your advantage. Spending more time on foreplay has a lot of benefits. Not only can it be done on your own or with a partner, it’s a great way to “prep” your body if you’re planning to have penetrative sex with a penis, especially if size is an issue. During foreplay you could start with something smaller than his penis such as a finger (could be yours or his) or a small vibrator or dildo as a warmup for your vagina. Gradually add more fingers (or maybe even try fisting!) or use bigger and bigger toys. Foreplay also helps build arousal, which allows your vagina to feel more relaxed so that penetration will be easier. In fact, for those with a vagina and uterus, the body goes through a process called vaginal tenting where muscular tension pulls the uterus upward, which can create more length and width in the vagina. Most vaginas need 10 to 40 minutes to be fully turned on, so spending more time on foreplay will allow your vagina more time for tenting, creating more space to be comfortably penetrated by a larger penis. The arousal phase also releases vaginal fluids, which helps reduce friction during sex. If you and your partner are feeling extra motivated, you could use foreplay to climax before engaging in sex. Having an orgasm releases a bunch of feel-good chemicals which will relax the muscles in and around the vagina, making it more comfortable to be penetrated by your partner’s penis afterwards.

In addition to using the body’s physiology, you can also try some other strategies to make your sexual activities more comfortable:

  • Lubrication: You don’t have to depend solely on your body to get the juices flowing. Using a water-based lube without glycerin or parabens can be a game-changer when it comes to painful penetration, either due to a too-dry vagina or a too-big penis. Friction may cause small tears in your vagina, which can not only be painful but also increase the risk for things such as yeast infections, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so stock up on a good lube for a smoother ride.
  • Position: The discomfort you experience when your partner tries to penetrate you fully may be due to the head of their penis hitting your cervix . You could try different sexual positions to help reduce discomfort and increase your pleasure, especially positions that allow you to have control over penetration, movement, and speed (e.g., being on top). You could also try out different positions for oral sex such as with your partner lying down, standing up, on his knees, or sitting. Maybe one of these angles would make you more comfortable with performing oral sex.
  • Technique: Some people feel more comfortable with partial insertion during oral, anal, and vaginal sex. The unenveloped part of the penis, as well as the scrotum or anus, can be stimulated with fingers, hands, or a vibrator. Oral sex doesn’t always have to include taking the penis fully into the mouth or fully into the vagina. Try using your hands on the base of the penis to stroke the part of the shaft that isn’t in your mouth. For penetrative sex in the vagina, you could try the coital alignment technique (or CAT) position, which involves keeping your legs closer together than you normally would during missionary. The closer your legs are to each other, the less likely he’ll go too deep.

As you experiment and play, it’s good to keep the lines of communication open. Tell one another how you feel, what is uncomfortable, and what feels good. This doesn't need to mean carrying out a full conversation while having sex; simple words such as "deeper" or "not so deep," "gently" or "harder," "faster" or "slower" are usually enough to get the point across and make sex more satisfying for both of you. There’s bound to be some trial and error, but as long as you both keep an open mind, respect each other’s boundaries, and always get consent first, you’re bound to find something that works. Peace of mind is also a key ingredient for pleasurable sex.

Have fun,

Last updated Apr 23, 2024
Originally published Nov 10, 2000

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